National Captioning Institute

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National Captioning Institute
FoundedJanuary 30, 1979; 40 years ago (1979-01-30)[1][2]
Legal status501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[3]
PurposeTo provide access to public media for those who, for whatever reason, are restricted from that access.[4]
HeadquartersChantilly, Virginia
Coordinates38°54′32″N 77°26′52″W / 38.908850°N 77.447857°W / 38.908850; -77.447857Coordinates: 38°54′32″N 77°26′52″W / 38.908850°N 77.447857°W / 38.908850; -77.447857
Gene Chao[4]
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016)$17,288,663[4]
Endowment$24,947 (2016)[4]
Employees (2016)

The National Captioning Institute, Inc. (NCI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[3] that provides real-time and off-line closed captioning, subtitling and translation, described video, web captioning, and Spanish captioning for television and films. Created in 1979[5] and headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia, the organization was the first to caption live TV and home video, and holds the trademark on the display icon featuring a simple geometric rendering of a television set merged with a speech balloon to indicate that a program is captioned by National Captioning Institute. National Captioning Institute also has an office in Santa Clarita, California.[6]


The National Association of Broadcasters formed a task force in 1972 to create the technology to provide captions of television broadcasts without an unreasonably large financial burden on television networks or local television stations.[7] Federal funding paid for the technology. Viewers would buy an adapter for their televisions that would decode and display the text while watching closed-captioned television programs.[7] Up to that point, captioning of television shows was rare, with Boston television station WGBH being one of the few with open captioning of news and public affairs shows since the early 1970s.[8][9]

National Captioning Institute was incorporated on January 30, 1979, with millions of dollars of start-up funding from the federal government.[1][2][10] On March 23, 1979, United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare announced plans for closed-captioning of twenty hours per week of television shows.[11] National Captioning Institute established its original headquarters in Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia,[12] and later that year it established a second office in Los Angeles.[13]

National Captioning Institute's work first became publicly well known on March 16, 1980, when ABC, NBC, and PBS collectively introduced closed-captioning of their television shows.[7] At the time, CBS decided not the join the group at first because CBS preferred a different captioning system that was being used in Europe.[14][15] John E.D. Ball was the founding president of the National Captioning Institute.[16] Mark Okrand was National Captioning Institute's first supervisor of captioning, overseeing the transcription of audio.[17] At the time, employees of National Captioning Institute used court-reporter steno machines to caption shows.[17]

Rosalynn Carter hosted a reception at the White House honoring the work of National Captioning Institute on March 19, 1980.[18] In 1981, Hollywood Radio and Television Society gave an award to the National Captioning Institute for developing the closed captioning system for television shows.[19]

In 1981, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video became the first video company to release movies on videotape that had closed captions.[17]

In 1993, a federal law went into effect that required built-in capacity to display captions on all televisions 13 inches or larger, which would make purchasing separate decoders no longer necessary.[16][20] Virtually all television shows were being broadcast with closed-captions at that point.[20]

On September 11, 2001, Holli Miller provided live captioning about the September 11 attacks on New York City station WNYW.[21] Miller's shift had been scheduled to end around the time of the attacks, but Miller decided she needed to continue working in order to inform people of the critical information.[21] Miller's hands shook as she typed while the television station showed the second airplane crash into the World Trade Center.[21] Miller worked six hours more than her usual two and a half hour shift, taking only one two-minute break all that time, despite usually taking breaks when commercials are ordinarily broadcast.[21]

In 2006, National Captioning Institute terminated the employment of 14 employees who had joined the National Association of Employees and Transmission Technicians in an effort to have reasonable workloads, receive annual cost-of-living raises, and prevent cuts in employee benefit plans.[22]


  1. ^ a b "National Captioning Institute, Inc." District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Government of the District of Columbia. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Stevens, Mary (May 5, 1989). "Captioning gives deaf whole story". Chicago Tribune. p. 67.
  3. ^ a b c "National Captioning Institute Inc." Tax Exempt Organization Search. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". National Captioning Institute Inc. Guidestar. December 31, 2016.
  5. ^ "Three Major Networks Plan to Offer Closed Captioning for Deaf". InfoWorld. 10: 9. June 25, 1979. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  6. ^ "Contact". National Captioning Institute.
  7. ^ a b c Brennan, Patricia (September 29, 1985). "National Captioning Institute: CC: Decoding Television for the Hearing Impaired". The Washington Post. p. TV8.
  8. ^ McLean, Robert A. (October 15, 1980). "Closed-caption is Catching On". Boston Globe. p. 1.
  9. ^ McLean, Robert A. (November 13, 1980). "The Latest in Captions". Boston Globe. p. 1.
  10. ^ Rattner, Steven (April 16, 1979). "Washington Watch: Legislative Veto Faces Test Studying the Energy Department Broadcasters Help the Deaf Briefcases". The New York Times. p. D2.
  11. ^ "Plans for Prime-Time TV Captions". The Washington Post. March 24, 1979. p. B4.
  12. ^ "Real Estate Notes". The Washington Post. June 30, 1979. p. F18.
  13. ^ "TV Captions for the Deaf to Be Available in March". Associated Press. Boston Globe. January 7, 1980. p. 1.
  14. ^ Brown, Les (February 5, 1980). "New Device Calls Up Printed Matter on TV: How the Systems Vary Regarded as Superior Way The First Programs". The New York Times. p. C24.
  15. ^ Carmody, John (January 29, 1980). "The TV Column". The Washington Post. p. B10.
  16. ^ a b "John E.D. Ball" (obituary). The Washington Post. April 13, 2010. p. B6.
  17. ^ a b c Nishi, Dennis (May 14, 2009). "How I Got Here: Helping the Hearing Impaired And Voicing the Klingons". Wall Street Journal. p. D4.
  18. ^ Carmody, John (March 12, 1980). "The TV Column". The Washington Post. p. D14.
  19. ^ "A Lego Toys commercial filmed in England". UPI NewsTrack. March 4, 1981.
  20. ^ a b Yant, Monica (June 29, 1993). "Captioning Gets a Regular Role on TV Television: Federal law takes effect Thursday requiring sets 13 inches or larger to have built-in subtitle capability". Los Angeles Times. p. 2.
  21. ^ a b c d Probasco-Sowers, Juli (December 8, 2001). "Iowan's fingers fly to create TV captions". Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa). p. B1.
  22. ^ Macías, Jorge Luis (April 1, 2006). "Protestan ex empleados de NCI" (Spanish). La Opinión (Los Angeles, California). p. 3A.

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